Stamford College Old Boys defeat Thorney in Midlands 4 East (South) showdown
Stamford College Old Boys returned to Midlands 4 East (South) action on Saturday after a two week hiatus to claim a bonus point victory over Thorney.
The 28-12 win secured a league double for the Old Boys who had recorded a narrow 23-22 success in the first meeting of the season between the two sides.
Both teams went into Saturday’s clash looking for the win for completely different reasons - Thorney were aiming to avoid dropping to the bottom of the table while College were looking to keep pace in the top four.
And, much like the reverse fixture, it was to be the wind which reigned supreme with the College choosing to play against it in the first half.
Starting the brighter of the two sides, the visitors commanded a greater share of possession and territory as they found themselves camped within the Thorney 22. However, a handling error gave possession back to Thorney and a chance to clear their lines.
The home side though lost the scrum as excellent pressure gave Fraser the opportunity to pick from the base and crash over from 10 metres out for the first score of the day. A successful conversion followed to make the score 0-7.
The next period of play was to be totally dominated by the home side as they set about using the much heavier pack to deliver some explosive crash balls.
However, College stood strong and fronted up with some huge hits coming in from Pound, Sherwin and Durman.
Old Boys’ desperate defence were then guilty of being slightly over eager at the breakdown as penalties were beginning to slip into the game. Discipline had to be improved otherwise the referee was to take things further.
Using the penalties to kick to the corner, Thorney were in a great position to hoist an attack and, although it didn’t come straight away, a few phases down the line they were able to find a hole.
With some poor communication and a slow defensive line speed, the hosts took the hole as a gateway to getting over the line. A difficult kick towards the touchline went wide and the score was poised at 5-7.
The next 15 minutes were to be dominated by the home side as they pinned their ears back and looked for a second score.
The visiting pack tried their best to slow the ball down at the breakdown and were successful in their attempts, however, Thorney were keeping possession.
Crucial tackles from Satherley, Twose and Smith kept the home side from crossing however, after a sustained period camped out under the posts, it was only a matter of time before an infringement was spotted.
Guilty of not releasing the ball at the ruck, the College were about to defend a penalty on their line and, after building confidence in previous scrums, the option to scrummage was taken.
After a dominating nudge, the Thorney number eight picked from the base and broke a few tackles before sliding over for the hosts’ second score. An easier kick followed as the extras were added to make the score 12-7.
With a few stern words under the posts minutes before half-time, Old Boys were looking for a killer blow and,after regaining their own kick, it was Twose who broke up the field before being dragged out deep into the home side’s half.
A few tough phases and Flanders spun the ball out to Johns who noticed a dog-legged defence and, like many times this season, managed to arc his run between the centres before coming back in on the full back to go under the posts for his first try. An easy kick through the posts as the whistle for half-time was blown made the interval score 12-14.
Although having a full complement of players on the bench, there wasn’t any reason to immediately change the College personnel nor the structure.
The only thing to switch was typically the wind as it went from straight down the pitch to swirling in a matter of minutes.
After kicking off for the second half, it was College who immediately took the initiative with quick play which gave a glimpse as to why they are competing at the position they are in the league.
Excellent platforms were being made by both forwards and backs alike and it was to be only a brief minute before an overlap had been worked down the blind-side.
Johns called for the ball and sold the fast approaching winger an excellent dummy as he was able to get over for an expertly worked solo try. A challenging kick with a challenging wind was to be no problem as Johns converted his own score to make it 12-21.
With the management keen to make a few changes, Giullari entered the fray in place of Durman on the wing while Barringer took the place of Satherley at second row in an attempt to bulk out the pack which, although normally a weapon, was faltering at the feet of a heavier more experienced Thorney pack.
Having recovered the kick-off, Johns opted for territory as he put boot to ball and, although it didn’t quite make the touchline, a much better defensive alignment meant that Thorney were forced to start attacking from way within their own half.
A moment of madness saw Sherwin unnecessarily hit a ruck from the side and that earned him 10 minutes in the sin bin as the visitors were reduced to 14 men.
Keen to not concede with the numerical disadvantage, Whitfield was brought on in place of Smith on the flank as a way of locking things down at the breakdown. Flanders also made way for player-coach Gamble at scrum half.
After defending well and not letting the opposition through the middle, credit must be given to Giullari and Rodrigues who were having to put in tackle after brutal tackle out on the wings to avoid conceding out wide while having a player sin-binned.
With 10 minutes left and College having weathered the Thorney storm, they were reinstated to a full complement of 15 players after the excellent achievement of not conceding a point.
After slowly beginning to become dominant at set plays, especially the line out, the visitors were looking for that bonus point score which they knew would be so important come the end of the season table.
A strong platform was given after a catch and drive maul was taken 20 metres up the pitch before it was dragged down illegally with the referee playing advantage.
Gamble delivered the ball to Johns who again went on one of his mazy runs as he this time picked the gap between fly half and centre to score his third try of the game and 27th of the season.
Johns is now just three tries away from surpassing the club record for a season which is currently held by David Hickman with 29.
He kicked the additional points for a 100 per cent success to the applause of the handful of fans who had braved the exposed elements.
After the referee had announced there was enough time for kick off and the next stoppage in play was to be full time, Thorney had misjudged the wind and watched the ball float into touch.
It was an impressive bonus point win on the road against a tricky team on a strategically challenging pitch which is a sign that this Old Boys squad is going from strength to strength.
The victory makes it five games unbeaten across all competitions and leaves them in third place.
They host Wellingborough Old Grammarians - who will be looking for revenge after the College inflicted a 3-21 defeat back in November - on Saturday at Welland Academy (2.15pm).
College: S Pickerill, M Harker, S Duncan, D Satherley, A Walker, D Smith, J Twose, C Fraser, A Flanders, H Johns, N Pound, O Sherwin, S Durman, T Rodrigues, C Brierley Lewis. Subs: A Barringer, A Whitfield, H Giullari, S Gamble, T Houston.
More by this authorJames Bedford